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Prominent human rights lawyer gunned down in Moscow

Stanislav Markelov, lawyer and human rights defender, was shot dead in the middle of Moscow on Monday. He had been representing the family of Elsa Kungaeva, the young Chechen woman murdered by Colonel Yury Budanov

Stanislav Markelov, lawyer and human rights defender, was shot dead in the middle of Moscow on Monday, 19 January.  The 34-year-old lawyer was representing the family of Elsa (or Kheda) Kungaeva, the young Chechen woman who was abducted, raped and murdered in March 2000.  As reported here, Yury  Budanov who was finally sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for Elsa’s murder, was granted early release this month.  He had already been serving his sentence for some time in a minimum security penal colony . Stanislav Markelov’s appeal against the release was turned down and Budanov was freed on 15 January.

A young journalist from Novaya Gazeta, Anastasia Baburova, was also seriously wounded, after she attempted to grab the killer.

Stanislav Markelov had just made some statements at a press conference, including information about the Kungaevs’ appeal about Budanov’s release.

“On 15 January after Budanov’s release, I got a letter from the Dimitrovgradsky Court, from Judge Dubov, which informed why Budanov had been released,” Markelov said. “However the letter did not mention the main thing, why he was freed before the court received my official appeal against the ruling to grant him early conditional release from 24 December 2008”. Markelov added that he couldn’t call this letter an official document since it had no official stamp on it, but said that he had not to that day received any another document.

«I sent a complaint against the letter from Judge Dubov today to the Ulyanovsk Regional Court, and also informed the Supreme Court of this, and asked them to take the review of my complaint under their control”.,

Stanislav Markelov also represented journalist Mikhail Beketov who was brutally beaten in November 2008 and is still gravely ill (see ) Beketov is well-known as an opposition journalist who published hard-hitting articles in the Moscow region newspaper “Khimkinskaya Pravda” about the local authorities and was actively fighting for the preservation of the Khimky Forest which until recently was scheduled to be felled to make way for an arterial road from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

At noon Moscow time today, 20 January, people will gather to lay flowers at Prexhistenka, 1 (Kropotkinskaya metro) where Stanislav Markelov was gunned down

Stanislav Markelov was married with two children, aged 2 and 4.  Our deepest sympathy to his family and friends

Eternal Memory

Statement issued today by Amnesty International

Amnesty International strongly condemns the murder of lawyer and human rights defender Stanislav Markelov. He was shot dead today in the centre of Moscow as he prepared to appeal again against the early release of a Russian former colonel sentenced for the murder of a Chechen girl. A journalist from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta was wounded in the same attack.

“Stanislav Markelov is yet another victim - very possibly murdered for his professional and courageous work to defend human rights,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International expresses sympathy for the family of Stanislav Markelov and urges the Russian authorities to investigate the murder promptly, fully and objectively.

Among high profile cases he worked on, Stanislav Markelov was the lawyer of the family of Chechen girl Kheda Kungaeva, who was abducted, raped and strangled to death in March 2000. Colonel Yuri Budanov was sentenced for the murder. He was released early on 15 January 2009 despite the appeal filed by Stanislav Markelov. Over the last week, Stanislav Markelov had received numerous death threats for his work on behalf of the family of Kheda Kungaeva.

“Stanislav Markelov’s murder is a despicable crime. The Russian authorities must take decisive steps to show that such crimes will not be tolerated. Silencing those who defend human rights and work to uphold the rule of law is absolutely unacceptable,” Nicola Duckworth said.

Amnesty International has worked with Stanislav Markelov on several cases, defending those whose human rights had been violated. In 2004, the organization campaigned on his behalf after he had been attacked, beaten and had documents stolen relating to his work on behalf of the family of Zelimkhan Murdalov, a young Chechen man, who was subjected to torture and enforced disappearance by Russian law enforcement official Sergei Lapin. Stanislav Markelov was also working on behalf of anti-fascists who had become victims of hate crime.

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